FOMO and What You Can Do About It

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out” is more pervasive than we’d like to admit.  While the internet certainly enhances our vulnerability to FOMO, I can remember being in college and wondering what others were doing on a Friday night.

What if, my thinking went, other students are doing something more fun than what I am doing? 

I was left with a feeling of not only being left out but maybe that I wasn't as valuable as others.  

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Social media makes FOMO more of a reality than ever before and you might not be aware of its effects on your psyche. If you're consuming large amounts of social media, it may be impacting you more than you realize. 

  • A recent BBC article detailed the experiences of British teens who accepted the challenge to lay off social media for a week.  (Source)

It didn’t go so well.  The students struggled mightily during the week to stay off Facebook and Snapchat.  They actually felt as if they were missing out on life while staying off the internet.

  • This NPR piece explored the effect of too much Facebook on a young woman’s desire to be happy.  She explained that Facebook allowed her to post the good and the beautiful and avoid the ugly aspects of life.

Talking about the view outside of her home, she put it this way, “If you looked only from the porch, you could see mountains straight, but if you looked to the left, you could see this huge factory. But, of course, I didn't take pictures of the factory because why would you do that?”  

The result of Rachel’s savvy use of social media revealed an awareness of its inherent bias towards posting only what’s good.  Beyond that, she realized that she didn’t want to be posting everything for the world to see.  Sure, life is good when it’s good but sometimes things can go south, like when Rachel’s marriage fell apart.  She didn't feel like posting much of that aspect of her life.

FOMO increases anxiety.  We feel somehow “less” than the others we see online, especially if what they're posting looks exciting.

The good news?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  First, from a posture of how you use social media.  I suggest using it in the way that you want it.  There are no set rules to how often you should post to Facebook.  If you feel like posting, go for it but never feel pressure to stay up to speed each and every day.

Related to this, if you feel like social media has been getting the best of you, take permission to ditch it altogether.  

After all, the world won’t stop if…

  • you don’t post to Instagram
  • you don’t check Facebook for a week
  • you miss someone’s new pin board on Pinterest
  • you can’t stay on top of everyone in your Twitter feed
  • you go "off the grid" for a week or two

It’s ok.  Put the phone down. Look around and be with those that you are with.  As Jim Eliot famously said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”